MALONE — Fresh garden vegetables, meats from grass-fed animals and more were showcased at a networking session between local farmers and chefs.
Turnout was low Tuesday at “Speed Dating for Farmers and Chefs,” a first-time event, but enthusiasm for the program, sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County, was high as a variety of vendors talked about their products and small businesses.
Many participants already supply restaurants in the region with some of their meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables, but the event — held at Donovan’s Steak and Ale in Malone — was a chance to expand their reach to others.
LOOKING TO EXPAND
Michelle Asselin of Harmony Hills Farmstead in Malone sells 100 percent registered Black Angus beef and Berkshire pigs raised with no hormones or other growth stimulants.
Her farm has 70 free-range pastured pigs of varying ages, 26 cattle that are fed no grain and hundreds of pastured chickens and turkeys.
She typically sells her meats at farmers markets in the region and has regular sales to restaurants in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid.
But she wants to connect with more chefs to boost business.
“At this time of year, I’d really like to rely on more wholesale markets,” Asselin said.
Beth Downing of Burke had a display booth full of information about the Northern Adirondack Lamb Cooperative, which brings together five lamb producers who supply grass-fed lamb to local restaurants and individuals.
“We pool our resources to sell to restaurants in Lake Placid and Saranac Lake,” she said, and they supply Irises restaurant and the North Country Food Cooperative in Plattsburgh, as well as Donovan’s.
Downing said the challenge for co-op members is getting the lamb processed, since there is only one U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved slaughterhouse in the region within a practical distance.
Tri-Town Packing in the St. Lawrence County hamlet of Brasher Falls is 27 miles one way from Malone, she said.
But by combining their efforts instead of acting as individual farms, the co-op is able to book more processing days and have plenty of lamb for their customers.
Downing said the co-op will be part of more farmers markets this year and hopes to catch on with more restaurants.
Besides her farm at Downing Acres in Burke, the lamb cooperative includes Kirbside Gardens of Chateaugay, Shady Hill Farm in Dickinson Center, White Stone Farm in Chateaugay and Double H Sheep Company in Canton.
John Eick of ThunderCrest Farms plants acres of beans, peas, green peppers, tomatoes and squash and more on two parcels — one in Burke and the other in Saranac — each with distinctive weather patterns to aid his growing season and needed supply.
Many of the fruits and vegetables are sold at the ThunderCrest roadside stand and greenhouse on Route 11, but Eick and owner, Janet Burl, have enough space to grow for any amount for interested restaurants.
He said events like Tuesday’s get-together are helpful to his business.
“This is direct marketing, bringing the producer together with the end recipient,” Eick said, adding that it is also an opportunity for growers and farmers to get to know each other.
“We all know each other, so it’s more like family and neighbors,” he said. “If I don’t have what someone wants, I can refer them to others and, hopefully, they do the same for me.”
Email Denise A. Raymo: firstname.lastname@example.org